For more than two decades, Rural Women Development Centre (Gramin Mahila Utthan Kendra) have been engaging in the education of marginalized women along with socio-economic empowerment. Subsequently, it has also been working towards the reproductive health rights of these women.
Coming from an indigenous marginalized community, I witnessed how people were discriminated against on the basis of their social stratification. The patriarchal society that we live in discriminates women for being a “woman” but at the same time, a woman of indigenous community faces prejudices and biases on several more level. As a student in Grade 5, I had read somewhere that “Man is born free but everywhere he is in Chain”. This quote had a strong and a lasting impact on me.
There was a time when I was mocked and heavily criticised for raising my voice on the importance of girls and women in education. Therefore, we started out by creating awareness and doing advocacies in community level which slowly brought about changes in the mind-set of the people. As someone rightly said “If we educate a boy, we educate one person. If we educate a girl, we educate a family- and the whole nation.” This became our driving factor and our organizational goal.
Moving ahead, we realized that there was a strong need for women to be economically empowered. Thus, in order to reduce poverty among the deprived women, we started a Micro-Finance Program with only 40 members which have now increased to 52000 members. We hope that it continues to grow further by providing financial support to women. Along with that, several pieces of training were provided to women on vegetable farming, poultry farming as well as masonry.
Within two decades, we saw a remarkable change where many deprived women, Kamlaharies started running their own businesses with the support of the micro-finance program. I still remember the knowledge imparted by the Nobel Laureate Prof. Muhammad Yunus “I am not a job seeker; I am a job –creator” in the context of micro-finance. The micro-finance program has indeed helped women not only being economically sound but also socially empowered. In addition, these women have been able to share the financial burden of their husband, therefore, improving their living standard.
With Nepal transitioning to a federal structure, it is essential that the present law encompasses the rights of all social groups. Moreover, the political participation and access to state policy are also very low among the indigenous marginalized communities. Thus, it is important for organizations to work together in addressing these issues.
Throughout this 24 years of journey, we had the great opportunity to work in cooperation with government as well as various donor agencies, bilateral and multilateral agencies along with INGOs like World Education, Heifer International Nepal, United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), European Union Commission, Planet Enfante, Integrated Development Environment (IDE) Nepal, Resource Identification Management Society Nepal (RIMS-Nepal), Rupantaran, RMDC Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha Ltd, Centre for Research and Environment, Health and Population Activities (CREHPA), PACT Nepal, Micro Credit Project for Women (MCPW), Community Self-Reliance Centre (CSRC), Enhancing Access to Financial Services (EAFAS), Nepal Rastra Bank, International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES), UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), United Nation Development Fund (UNDP), Habitat for Humanity Nepal, USAID, fhi360, Bank of Kathmandu, FMDB Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha and with various local NGOs of Rolpa, Dang Salyan, Pyuthan, Bardiya and Banke and are grateful for their immense support.
It gives me a great joy to see the impact that has been created in the lives of these women, that the struggle we faced early on seems oblivious. We will continue striving for the respect and dignity of marginalized indigenous communities and wish for continuous support from all our well-wisher.